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Down on the Farm: Who's got next?

Michael Hurcomb
Fantasy Writer
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Do you remember the good ol' days of baseball? Like when the word "pitch count" didn't exist, closers would often go multiple innings to record saves and prospects were given time to develop in the minor leagues.

There's nothing wrong with change, and often change is a good thing. But now that teams are rapidly moving prospects through their farm system, it's getting tougher to guesstimate MLB debuts.

There was a time when a player would get drafted and it would be a few years before we would see him in the majors. Now, guys get drafted and months later they're donning big league uniforms.

This season, we have seen a pair of 2012 first-round picks -- Kevin Gausman and Michael Wacha -- and one second-round pick -- Alex Wood -- make their MLB debuts. Let's not forget that 2012 second-round pick Paco Rodriguez made his debut for the Dodgers last season.

The list goes on and on with players spending little time in the minors, hardly seeing time at the upper levels or even making the jump from the low minors. Some of the more notable names meeting the criteria have been Yasiel Puig, Anthony Rendon, Jose Fernandez and Carlos Martinez.

We truly live in a world where calling a prospect a long-term Fantasy keeper is taboo. And that means bench spots in seasonal formats are being occupied more by minor leaguers than true reserves. Everyone rather not miss out on the next great prospect and bypass a player that could pay immediate, but likely short-lived dividends.

Which leads us into the topic of who is among the next wave of prospects speeding through the minors that could be worth a bench spot in your league?

The Mariners have already begun the transition of bringing up their stars of tomorrow. Mike Zunino is calling games behind the plate, while Brad Miller and Nick Franklin are manning the middle infield. But the call-ups aren't likely to stop with those three.

We're anticipating starting pitchers Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker joining the Seattle rotation by season's end. The duo has a combined 19 Triple-A starts, but Hultzen would have likely already been in the majors had a shoulder injury not sidelined him for several weeks. Walker has tossed 11 shutout innings since his promotion from Double-A Jackson. I've been pushing Fantasy owners all season to stash Hultzen as an impact arm, but now I'm changing my tune about Walker, given his surge this season and the recent trend of unlikely promotions.

The Orioles' rotation certainly could use a boost, but look to outfielder Henry Urrutia to provide a lift to the team's offense in the second half. He was recently promoted to Triple-A Norfolk after the organization got a little more comfortable with his defensive and baserunning skills. However, Urrutia can rake. He hit .365 with a .550 slugging percentage and .983 OPS in 52 games at Double-A Bowie, and the Orioles can always stick him at DH if they feel he's too much of a liability in the outfield.

The Red Sox are trying to solidify the back-end of their rotation. Allen Webster hasn't panned out yet and while Felix Doubront has been much better as of late, if the Red Sox don't trust Rubby De La Rosa or Franklin Morales to help the rotation, then Boston could turn to Brandon Workman. After going 10-8 with a 3.50 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 25 starts last season, the right-hander is 8-2 with a 3.42 ERA and 1.19 WHIP between Double-A and Triple-A this season, while striking out a career-high 9.8 batters per nine innings. He has gone 3-1 with a 3.41 ERA in five starts since his promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket.

The Royals and White Sox are both under .500, but with plenty of games left they are still in the playoff hunt. Even if they fall out of the playoff chase, personnel moves could lead them to promote some of their top pitching prospects, particularly Kansas City's Yordano Ventura and Erik Johnson of the White Sox.

Ventura has struggled a bit since his promotion to Triple-A Omaha, posting a 4.94 ERA in 23 2/3 innings, but if the Royals trade soon-to-be-free-agent Ervin Santana, then Ventura could get the call. Remember, he was in the final pool of players vying for a spot in the rotation this spring.

Most Owned Minor Leaguers (as of 7/3)
Player % owned
1. Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Red Sox 50
2. Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals 43
3. Michael Wacha, SP, Cardinals 38
4. Billy Hamilton, OF, Reds 36
5. Ike Davis, 1B, Mets 32
6. Dan Straily, SP, Athletics 31
7. Travis d'Arnaud, C, Mets 30
8. Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins 28
9. Tyler Skaggs, SP, D-Backs 26
10. Trevor Bauer, SP, Indians 25

As for Johnson, the 2011 second-round pick is 9-2 with a 2.21 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in 16 starts between Double-A and Triple-A. The White Sox are unlikely to make the playoffs, so it might be worth giving Johnson a taste of the majors in 2013 so he's ready to compete for a rotation spot next spring.

Lastly, Phillies third baseman Michael Young's name has been mentioned heavily in trade rumors. If the Phillies choose to be sellers at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, then Young is a strong candidate to be moved. If he's dealt, who replaces Young at the hot corner?

Cody Asche is a strong candidate since he's done well at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but I'm not convinced Maikel Franco wouldn't leapfrog Asche. After rivaling Miguel Sano as the top power hitter in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League (high Class A), Franco has been on a ridiculous tear since his promotion to Double-A Reading. He hit .431 with a .765 slugging percentage, four home runs and 11 RBI in his first 12 games. If Franco has star potential, then much like Johnson, the Phillies might not wait until next spring to give him a major-league audition.

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Player News
Report: Adam Wainwright 'should have normal offseason'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(6:34 pm ET) Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright had his elbow examined following the team's elimination, and it checked out "optimistically," general manager John Mozeliak told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Wainwright "should have a normal offseason," Mozeliak added.

Michael Morse to DH in World Series
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(6:14 pm ET) Giants outfielder Michael Morse will serve as the team's designated hitter in the World Series games in Kansas City, manager Bruce Bochy told the San Jose Mercury News. Morse batted .279 with 16 homers and 61 RBI in 131 games.

He missed the NLDS with an oblique injury, but hit a tying homer in Game 5 of the NLCS.


Giants announce World Series rotation
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10/18/2014) Giants manager Bruce Bochy will maintain his current rotation for the World Series, which means Madison Bumgarner and Jake Peavy will start Games 1 and 2 in Kansas City, the San Francisco Chronicle reports Saturday. Tim Hudson and Ryan Vogelsong will pitch Games 3 and 4 at home.

Bochy is also expected to keep veteran Tim Lincecum on the roster. Lincecum has yet to make an appearance this postseason for San Francisco.


Royals tab Shields, Ventura for World Series Games 1, 2
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/18/2014) The Royals will start pitchers James Shields in Game 1 and Yordano Ventura in Game 2 of the World Series, Yahoo! Sports reports. The Royals are making their first World Series appearance in 29 years.

Cord Phelps elects free agency
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/18/2014) Orioles infielder Cord Phelps has elected free agency. Phelps hit .259/.361/.388 with seven home runs, 51 RBI and two stolen bases in 343 at-bats with Triple-A Norfolk.

Kelvin De La Cruz elects free agency
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/18/2014) Orioles pitcher Kelvin De La Cruz has elected free agency. He delivered a 5.98 ERA and 49:31 K:BB ratio in 49 2/3 innings with Triple-A Norfolk.

Julio DePaula elects free agency
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/18/2014) Orioles pitcher Julio DePaula has elected free agency. DePaula, whose only work as a major-league game in 2007 with the Twins, posted a 4.97 ERA and 43:13 K:BB ratio in 38 innings with Double-A Bowie.

Reds pitcher Trevor Bell elects free agency
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/17/2014) Reds pitcher Trevor Bell has elected to become a free-agent.

Bell pitched just two-thirds of an inning in the majors last season due to elbow inflammation. He'll seek a deal with another club during the offseason.


Cardinals may not be able to keep Pat Neshek
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/17/2014) Cardinals reliever Pat Neshek may have to test the open market this winter, according to MLB.com.

After his performance last season, there's a sense that Neshek has priced himself out of St. Louis' bullpen. Neshek was exceptional with the club, posting a 1.87 ERA over 67 1/3 innings. The performance earned him a trip to the All-Star Game. The team will likely attempt to re-sign Neshek, but there's a sense he can get a more lucrative deal elsewhere. 


Report: Former Orioles infielder Brian Roberts to retire
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/17/2014) Former Orioles infielder Brian Roberts is set to retire, according to MASN.

Roberts played 14 seasons in the majors, all but one of which came with Baltimore. He finished out his career with the Yankees last season. Roberts was elected to two All-Star teams during his tenure in Baltimore. He finished 18th in the MVP voting in 2005 after hitting .314/.387/.515. Injuries kept him down the last few seasons of his career. Roberts suffered two concussions, which contributed to him missing time in both 2010, 2011 and 2012. 

He retires with a career .276/.347/.409 batting line over 5,531 at-bats. 


 
 
 
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